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How to Get Through the Holidays When You are Divorced

Rebecca Eckler December 30, 2016
surviving the holidays without your kids dec 2016

This will be my third year in a row not spending New Year’s Eve with my daughter. As any parent who has been divorced, or is in the process of getting a divorce knows, holidays spent without your children can be the most painful time of the year. If you let it.

In truth, I don’t really care about New Years. I wonder if that’s become a defense mechanism because I usually don’t get to spend NYE with my daughter. I don’t like spending weeks on end without my favourite person in the world, and especially not having the chance to give my daughter a big sloppy New Year’s kiss at the stroke of midnight. I may post photos on Facebook, looking like I’m having a grand old time on a vacation without my daughter, but the truth is, I spend an inordinate amount of time swiping to look at old photographs of her on my iPhone.

Many parents, especially when their children are young, will get in their agreements the ‘Holiday Switch Off’, where one year one parent will have the kids, and the next year, you’ll be with your children for a particular holiday. Technically, I suppose, I could demand this, but Rowan’s father and I discuss way before the holidays start where Rowan will end up for each holiday. We don’t make demands that she spends the holidays with either one of us, because we know her best, and we want her to be happy. Here are some tips to make the holidays and New Year’s Eve easier if you are sans-kids this year. Take it from me. I know. And, yes, it’s a learning process.

  • My daughter Rowan loves skiing. It’s her absolute favourite hobby and gives her great confidence. So I do let, and even encourage, her father have winter holidays and even March Break with Rowan, since he lives in an area with great skiing. It would be, I think, incredibly selfish of me to demand my daughter give up her time on the slopes, and doing something she loves, just because I want to give her a huge hug on New Year’s Eve. Regardless of any agreement, I want my daughter to have the best time when she’s on holidays and she seems happiest on the slopes. Why would I take that away from her? So I don’t.
  • Talk to your ex beforehand about how many times, what times, and when you can talk to your child. Just because I have the urge to call my daughter every two minutes doesn’t mean I should. I had to learn impulse control and remind myself that I shouldn’t just pick up the phone and call whenever I damn well please, because, not only do I not want her to think that ‘mommy is sad’, but also, it’s her time with Daddy (and her grandparents.) How would I feel if her father called me every five minutes to check on her when she’s with me? It took me many years to learn impulse control when it came to calling and speaking with my daughter when I’m not spending the holidays with her. Let your children be…with the parent they are with, without constant interruption on your end.
  • Remind yourself that spending time with the other parent is a good thing. My daughter and I have so many things in common. And we really, really like spending time together, whether it’s going to a movie, watching a Netflix series, going on walks or simply just talking. I was thrilled when my daughter found a common interest (skiing) with her father. Remember, just because they are having fun with the Other Parent, does not take away every fun memory you’ve shared with your children when it’s your time with them. Let them spend this quality, uninterrupted time with their other parent, so they can bond. Show some empathy. Would you like it if your phone kept going off, while you were trying to enjoy your time with your kids?
  • Don’t take things personally. This, too, is a skill I’ve learned throughout the years of being a single parent. If I call when my daughter is with her father, and my daughter is distracted, because she’s racing out for dinner, or racing to catch a movie with her father, do NOT make a big stink about it. Let them be. And if you happen to be on the phone with them, and they have to race off, say a quick goodbye and tell them to ‘have fun!’. We do want our children to have fun, don’t we? We do not want them to feel bad, just because they are with the other parent.
  • Your children, or child, will not forget about you. It may seem like a lifetime to us parents who don’t spend the holidays with our children (we may even be counting down the days…) but in reality it’s only a couple of weeks. They will NOT forget how much you love them, or how much they love you. Trust me. Have you ever forgotten someone you love do deeply…in two weeks? Didn’t think so.
  • If your child is older, and has their own phone, don’t make demands that they call or text you every single day…or at all. Why put that pressure on your children, just to make YOU feel better? Let them have fun, enjoy their time with their other parent, without having expectations that they’re going to call. You will be disappointed if you are sitting around waiting for that call. No one likes pressure put on them, especially children of divorce.
  • Talk to your ex about exchanging photos. Rowan’s Dad and I have an unwritten rule that we send each other photos or videos of Rowan to each other, when one of us is with her. Ask nicely. This is such an easy thing to do, but it goes both ways. If you send photos to your ex of your children when it’s YOUR time, they’ll be way more likely to send you photos of your children on their time. Even if you hate your ex, too bad! Treat your ex as you’d like them to treat you.
  • Do not compare what type of vacation your ex is having with your children. So what if your ex can afford an expensive vacation with your child, and you can’t? This may make you feel sorry for yourself, but it’s not about you. You should want your children to enjoy perks in life. Again, they will not love you any less just because their other parent can afford a five star resort. Again, it’s not about you. You should look forward to the stories your children will tell you.
  • Enjoy your kid-free time! This may be a tricky one, but make plans with friends you haven’t seen. Or curl up with a book. Soon enough, you’ll be screaming at them to hang up their coats and making them dinners every night. I have learned to enjoy my non-mommy time without my daughter. Of course, I miss her, but the only question you should be asking yourself is, ‘Is my child having fun?’ And, ‘Is my child happy?’ If so, the greatest gift you can give them is good times, with the other parent.
  • Lastly, I am a believer that kids need time away from their parents, just like us parents sometimes need a break from our children. Use this time to rejuvenate so you can be the best parent you can be in 2017. Not spending time with your children over the holidays is not the end of the world. It just isn’t. In fact, it makes spending time with them all the more special when you do have them.

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